I’d love to say it didn’t.
I’d really love to.
But going to the cinema can make me a worried bean sometimes; and believe me, that upsets me more than I can likely put to words.
Never the less, I’ll give it a go.
I’ll start with why the cinema is one of my favourite places, you know, for context and stuff. When I was a little one, our family didn’t have a proverbial pot to piss in. That’s not to say we were unhappy; just hardly Scrooge McDucking it in our riches. As such, the cinema felt like a rare event. A treat reserved for the grimmest of days. It was a trek too. We had to get two long bus rides to get there which probably added to how special it felt. All that before our young bums had even touched the seats in the now demolished Sidcup cinema.
An early memory of going to the cinema with my family involved seeing Toy Story. With cheap sweets we’d snuck in ready to be devoured, the lights went down. As the Disney logo faded to a now familiar lamp jumping across the screen I remember just being stuck there. Transfixed. I didn’t fully know what the story would throw my way or what twists and turns Woody and Buzz’s journey would take; and I didn’t care. In the words of Woody, “It will be fun while it lasts”. In fairness, “fun” doesn’t cut it, I was somewhere else. Somewhere away from school, away from my worries, and away from home.
Just me and a (toy) story.
So flash forward twenty two years and the roles are reversed. It’s my Mum’s birthday and I’m taking her to the cinema. She’s always loved the romance of Hollywood and the theatre, so what better film to introduce her to than “La La Land”?
It all seemed like it was going to be okay until 5 minutes before the film started. A gaggle of kids came in with their Mum’s and promptly started taking group selfies and giggling. You tell yourself that it will stop when the film starts. You tell yourself so much that you hope you will it into existence by way of some Uri Gellar brain gymnastics.
But no, “Another Day Of Sun” kicks in and it carries on. Selfie after selfie. Camera flash after camera flash. Each one being punctuated with shrill giggles that have been completely separated from the narrative unfolding on screen.
The song ends and one of the Mum’s leans forward in between the girls who are in front. So I tell myself that they’re schooling them in the ways of cinema etiquette. Again, brain gymnastics. Based on what followed I can only assume she whispered; “You think you can disrupt a screening? Watch and learn”.
By the time Das Gosling was swooning his way down the pier, whistling his way into “City of Stars” suddenly the silence of the room was broken by an all mighty, “ELLO? WHAT YOU WATCHIN’ THEN?”
The Mum had done it. She’d ruddy topped the efforts of her spawn. She lifts her phone up and on full brightness reveals that she’s having a FaceTime conversation.
I’ll let that sink in…
A FACETIME CONVERSATION.
IN A CINEMA.
She promptly shushed the man on the other side of the screen. As if to point out his rudeness. Of course, she wasn’t rude, she was showing the younger generation how it was done. Probably. If anything, it was a public service.
Not long after this the kids decided there were better things to be done and left. It was bliss; the screening was returned to its selfie free state, without the non-contextual giggles. You could relax again. The popcorn suddenly tasted sweeter.
Now I don’t know if you’ve seen the film or not so I won’t dare spoil it for you but there is a song called, “The Fools Who Dream”. It’s a masterful song, beautifully performed by Emma Stone, and completely deserved of its Oscar nomination. What’s more, it’s important to the narrative in so many ways.
“We’ll show you, old fart” I imagined they thought as they returned to their seats. “We’ll show you who can ruin this film more”. And so it went that the selfie brigade proceeded to laugh all through the scene.
I should point out for those who might be worried whether my Mum’s birthday was spoiled, that my Mum’s hearing has seen (or rather, heard) better days, so she was largely spared from the audio component of Selfie-Giggle Gate. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that jazz.
I’m well aware that by this point I probably sound like an old grump; melodramatic and whiney about something that is much more precious to me than it is to a number of others. However, this wasn’t an isolated incident. I’ve had a heartbreakingly countless number of experiences like this in the cinema. Too many to detail here.
I know this can’t be true of all screenings and all establishments. There are many institutions out there championing the film screening as an experience. Such places as the BFI, Everyman, The Prince Charles, and The Light to name a few.
Despite this, I can’t help but feel that the “rules” of cinema-going; the etiquette of it all, has begun to wither away. As Sebastian in La La Land said of jazz, it’s, “Dying on the vine”.
So now before I go to the cinema; I worry.
And I’d love to say I didn’t.
I’d really love to.
First things first, the opening 10 minutes of this film are horrendous. It’s syrupy, melodramatic to the extreme and it honestly feels like an extended scene from the opening of Walk Hard: A Dewey Cox Story. I even expected Hugo Weaving to shout “The wrong kid died!” at any given moment (if you get that reference then we can be friends).
Hacksaw Ridge does eventually find its footing and it’s Andrew Garfield’s wonderful performance that anchors the whole film. He’s so good here and thoroughly deserving of the many awards nods he’s been receiving. Speaking of good performances, I actually loved Sam Worthington in this. Yes, you read that correctly. Sam “charisma black hole” worthington is great in Hacksaw Ridge, I’m taking it as a sign of the apocalypse but colour me surprised.
Onto the battle scenes themselves, no film maker seems to love gore more than Mel Gibson and he doesn’t hold back here. But this then brings me into my main grievance with the film, Garfield’s character is a conscientious objector and therefore refuses to hold a weapon, as he is the protagonist you’d expect the film to side with his way of thinking. However for a film about someone that hates war and everything that comes with it the directorial style sure seems like it’s glorifying it at times. Huge, sweeping battle scenes, gunfights in slow motion with huge orchestral music over the top of it, every trick is pulled out of the bag here and for what purpose? Surely a film about a conscientious objector should show war to be as ugly as possible and not a showcase of the directors flair for the camera. Or maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.
That being said, the last 10 minutes of the film are genuinely moving and prove that no matter how the events are portrayed it’s still a story worth telling about one of the bravest men surely to have ever lived.
Well this is a dilemma and probably won’t make much sense but firstly thank god Danny Boyle came back to direct this; in anyone else’s hands it could have been an absolute disaster. However, that’s not saying he’s delivered a masterpiece here, his love for both the source material and the original film shines through. But unfortunately it’s also that love for the original film that ironically holds T2 back from becoming its own beast entirely.
A few less references (as good as it was to see her, there was no need for Kelly Mcdonald to be in this) and a tighter, more focused script and what an incredible double pairing these films could have turned out to be.
Don’t worry; I’ve not lost my mind. I’ve not really turned into the cult 90’s icon of cartoons and games. All will become clear; allow me to explain.
I’ve often wondered when I first took to writing. What it was that captured my imagination in the way other hobbies couldn’t. What was it? When did it start?
Last week I popped round to see my Mum with my fiancee and after a solid round of coffee and biscuits, she leapt from her seat with an almighty, “Oh! I almost forgot!”. My Mum is nothing but joyfully spontaneous and surprising at times.
5 minutes pass and she returns with a crudely handmade booklet. It was a story that I had penned as a little kid; scrawled in bad handwriting (that hasn’t much improved in the intervening years) on notepaper from a educational trip to Littlebrook Power Station that my Dad had taken me on. Now that I think about it, my childhood felt a little like a mix of being homeschooled and learning traditionally. Anyway, that’s by the by; back to the matter at hand.
One of the first I would guess. Here goes nothing…
“How I Turned Into Earthworm Jim” by Robert Trott
It was a summer morning and I was playing with a dead worm. And I felt a bit dizzy. Two hours later…I started to transform.
(There’s a breathtaking picture of me transforming)
My arms started to disappear. So did my legs. I WAS TURNING INTO EARTHWORM JIM! It was my best experience in my life. Earthworm Jim is my favourite superhero. I thought about what I would tell my Mum.
(A grotesque drawing of me as Earthworm Jim; possibly down to low level drawing skills at the time…)
I thought I could use my helicopter, head into my bedroom and make a robot disguised as me. I tried it and it worked! I tricked my mum into thinking Earthworm Jim had come round to visit us.
(A charming representation of my Mum, Earthworm Jim Me, and Robot Me. Keep up…)
Three days later…my mum had a bad suspicion about how long the transformed version of Earthworm Jim was staying.
Two hours later…my mum asked the transformed version of Earthworm Jim if she could be paid every week.
“How can I pay my own mum my own money?” I said.
One hour of thinking later…”Yes I can look in the library for a book of cures”.
(No image on this page. Possibly due to the abstract nature of the plot. That and the amount of time that keeps passing)
A day after childrens programs later…”At last a cure for transformations. Now I can show my mum that the robot version of me is not me by breaking it.” Three hours later…”I just don’t get this it’s just stupid.”
(You and me both, past Rob)
“Huh! Huh! I get it!”
“Jill! Can I show you something downstairs”
“Ok” Said mum.
“Mum this is not Robert”
“What do you mean?”Said mum.
“I mean, just watch this!”
Transformation spell disappear instantly, “Wow I’m glad to be back mum”
I know right? Genius…
Then I turn the page once more and see the following:
Other books in the series
How I turned into Buzz Lightyear
How I turned into Blades
How my mum had the best mum’s day ever!
Then it hit me. All these characters from my youth in shows and films were like catalysts to my young noggin. Showing me what was possible if you just think and allow yourself to let your imagination run wild. I didn’t have my own characters yet, but I had theirs.
The next bit is maybe cliche, but the second thing that dawned on me once I’d caught my breath from laughing so much from my ridiculous story, was that my parents were such a monumental key to unlocking what I wanted to spend my life doing. They may not be storytellers themselves but that’s besides the point. For every time they took one of these ridiculous books to their heart and didn’t laugh, regardless of the content, it was telling a young me that was scared and worried about being odd that it’s okay to want to create and make daft stuff; in fact, it’s wonderful.
I’ll try not to forget that.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly Sing’s target audience. But yet again I’m not the target audience for most of Disney’s latest outputs and have still walked out of the cinema beaming like a child who’s just started his summer holidays compared to how I looked when leaving my screening of Sing where I probably looked like a child on their first day of term.
Uninspired animation and world-building (Zootopia just shamed the hell out of this movie) with a complete lack of character arcs or even a moral to the story (Zootopia just shamed the hell out of this movie, again) and don’t even get me started on the song choices…
So yeah, this really wasn’t for me. And if getting smashed over the head with horrific pop cover after horrific pop cover complete with lashings of auto-tune sounds like a good time at the cinema then this is definitely for you. And Simon Cowell. He’d love this shitty movie.
A Monster Calls
JA Bayona does it again.
Although far from perfect (there are more than a few wobbly performances unfortunately including Sigourney Weaver who really struggles with the material) this film is a modern day fairytale. And yes, the last 20 minutes is just as sad as everyone says it is. My god, I was a mess.